Monthly bike ride starts up
Community invited to pedal their way through Covington

COVINGTON - Pedalers young and old are invited to participate in a monthly community bike ride through the streets of historic Covington.

Hosted by Main Street Covington, the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce and the Covington-Conyers Cycling Club (C4), the free ride will take place at 3 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month now through October.

Riders will meet at the Newton County Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St. in downtown Covington.

The ride kicked off Sunday with 17 participants ranging in age from 3 to almost 70.

"The emphasis here is on community," said C4 President Maurice Carter in a press release issued by organizers. "We want this to be a relaxed ride enjoyed by adults of all ages, families, children and casual cyclists looking for a pleasant spin around town with good company. Covington is just a great place to be outdoors, and there's no substitute for seeing it from the seat of a bicycle."

The ride is designed for people of all ages and abilities. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. All participants must wear a bike helmet.

The route will vary from month to month and will be 5 to 7 miles in length.

Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director Clara Deemer said the bike ride is part of a broader tourism program promoting the attractiveness of Covington and Newton County to cyclists across metro Atlanta and beyond.

"We saw last June how the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia brought over 1,500 riders and their families to Oxford and Covington," Deemer said. "And, the Covington Century Bike Ride to benefit Project Adventure Kids draws over a thousand riders every August. This community bike ride is a way for the citizens of Newton County to get out and share our roads with those cyclists who come here and spend money that benefits our local businesses."

Main Street Covington Director Josephine Kelly said downtown merchants are supportive of the ride.

"We'll be highlighting some of our local restaurants and other businesses," she said. "Riders will get discounts and special offers to keep tying this ride into our local business community. We'll also have T-shirts to commemorate the first year of this monthly event."

For more information about the ride, call the Chamber of Commerce at 770-786-7510.

In related news, May is National Bike Month. The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike-to-Work Week from May 11 to 15 and Bike-to-Work Day on May 15.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, more than half of the U.S. population lives within 5 miles of their workplace but lack of knowledge and incentives deters many from commuting by bike.

The purpose of Bike-to-Work Week is to change that.

Brian Murphy, owner and manager of Conte's Bicycles and Fitness of Conyers, said cycling promotes better health and is a transportation alternative for people who work within 10 to 15 miles from home.

Many cities are offering incentives for workers to commute on bicycle during Bike-to-Work week, but the cycling community in Conyers and Covington is not yet large enough to do that, Murphy said.

"If we can get one or two people (commuting by bike), even if it's just one or two days a week, that's a big improvement," he said.

Murphy also encouraged drivers to be aware there may be more cyclists on the road in the coming weeks.

"Bikes do belong on the road and just be aware that they're going to be out there," he said.

In celebration of National Bike Month, Conte's will host two free flat tire clinics this month to show cyclists how to do on-the-road repairs.

The clinics will be held at 6:15 p.m. May 13 and at 11:15 a.m. May 23 at Conte's, located at 927 Ga. Highway 138 N.E. in Conyers.

For more information on National Bike Month, visit www.bikeleague.org.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: Tips for new bikers

Top 10 Tips for a New Bike Commuter:

· 10. Gear: Make sure you have a working bike, inflated tires, brightly colored clothes, bottles of water, something to carry your water and other supplies like a possible change of clothes.

· 9. New bike? If you're ready to buy a new bike, try several different types before you pick one. You may think you want a simple, pillow-seated cruiser, but when you test ride bikes, you may find you really need a lighter, sleeker, faster road/commuter model.

· 8. Safe route: To commute, plan a safe, good route and try it out on a weekend before commuting to work, so you know for sure you can bike the distance.

· 7. Buddy up! Try to ride with someone for safety and encouragement, and let your co-workers and family members know when you are commuting.

· 6. The road less traveled: Sometimes side roads with little traffic are often a more enjoyable ride than roads with a bike lane.

· 5. Wear a helmet!

· 4. Lights: If you're going to do any night riding, get reliable, top quality front and back lights, so not only can you be seen, but you can see the road.

· 3. Security: Get a good lock. Change out your quick-release seat for a bolted-on seat. Take the lights off the bike when you park the bike.

· 2. Riding: Stay to the right in the lane, don't ride in the middle. Keep a big distance between you and parked cars - watch out for car doors suddenly opening.

· 1. And the No. 1 tip: Have fun and enjoy the ride.

Courtesy of Conte's Bicycles and Fitness of Conyers